Old Birds Don’t Die, They Just Stow Away

A recent stowaway in business class on a Singapore Airlines flight to London avoided detection for 12 hours before the cabin crew cottoned on to her presence. 

It wasn’t the twister and it wasn’t a plane. It was, however, a bird. 

Dinah was a Singaporean mynah, which longed to transcend its humble origins and trip the light fantastic. In short, Dinah the mynah wanted something finer.  

There were too many of her kind back in Singapore and she wished to be rid of her constantly squabbling flock. And so she resolved to travel to London where she had polite relatives called starlings and where she’d heard a nightingale always sang in Berkeley Square. 

Like most Singaporeans, Dinah could muster a modicum of Singlish, which she had been told would stand her in good stead in the United Kingdom. 

Finally, the avian adventurer wanted to see London because it was a monarchist at heart and hoped it might meet the Queen. Lest we forget, she was also tired of Majulah Singapura and yearned for the return of colonialism and God Save the Queen. 

As she was still a citizen of the city-state, however, she decided that the way to London would have to be by way of Singapore Airlines where she had heard good things about its business class services. 

The ease by which the feathered fugitive stealthily sailed over the republic’s Immigration controls while simultaneously resisting the urge to make a sizeable deposit on the burnished berets of the stolid Singaporeans has now become the stuff of legend and could become a movie starring Meryl Cheep and Jay Leno. 

The militant mynah even had the gumption to dawdle in SIA’s business lounge where she sampled some indifferent cheese that she decided she wouldn’t write home about before she made her historic tryst with destiny. 

But for such a noisy, oftentimes aggressive, bird to have avoided detection for almost the whole flight – it takes 14 hours to Heathrow from Changi – was nothing short of a miracle. You see, Dinah may have been crazy but she wasn’t stupid and knew full well

that a bird in the hand was usually dead.  

And it would have got away with it too. Except that nature took over. You see, there is an unseen force that lets birds know just when you’ve washed your car… or your hair.

Realising that there were only two hours till London, passenger M decided to wash her hair. Alas, the merciless mynah noticed and the jig was up.

In a statement on Sunday (Jan 13), an SIA spokesman confirmed that a bird was found on flight SQ322 on January 7. 

“It was subsequently caught by cabin crew with the assistance of some of the passengers on board,” said the spokesman.

Alas, poor Dinah. She had been handed over to British quarantine officials fearful of bird flu. You couldn’t blame them either: she was a bird and she had just flown.

Singapore has publicly repudiated the mutinous mynah for disavowing its national anthem but SIA is said to be considering her as a flyting advertisement for its business class services along the lines of “well, if you had to stow away…”

Press reports have since indicated that Dinah has taken up with a British starling with a drink problem. 

You see where this is heading don’t you?

I mean, that’s like, getting two birds stoned at once. 

The Quality Of Mercy Isn’t Strained, It’s Murderous

You can take a beast out of the wild, but you can’t take the “wild” out of the beast.

That would seem to be the moral of this plainly-immoral tale.

Alas, poor Deasy.

She had a pet crocodile that she’d christened Mercy. Unfortunately, the beast seemed to have had no such quality because Mercy ate Deasy.

Deasy Tuwo, the head of a laboratory at a pearl farm in Minahasa in North Sulawesi, was killed by her enormous, 14-foot pet last Thursday, the authorities said.

“The 44-year-old’s badly mauled body was found by colleagues the following morning,” Hendrik Rundengan, from the local conservation agency, said.

“The indication is that she fell into the crocodile’s enclosure,” adding that the incident was still being investigated by police.

President Jokowi was more eloquent. “It’s sad to see that a family can be torn apart by something as simple as a wild crocodile,” said the country’s head of state so sympathetically that it brought tears to the eyes of his people. 

Watching from the side-lines in Kuala Lumpur, RM – and I don’t mean Ringgit Malaysia – agreed and threw her not-inconsiderable weight behind a worldwide campaign that argued that all crocodiles should evolve into what God had intended in the first place – handbags or, its last offer, shoes. 

But was it as simple as a clear-cut case of Deasy meets Mercy; Deasy likes Mercy; Mercy eats Deasy?

The lab-head’s neighbours were incredulous, pointing out that the two seemed well, close.

Not close enough,  snorted the merciless Mercy which had been plotting this for a while now. That was why, the rascally reptile reasoned,  they needed to be, well, “closer.”

It was, the crocodile reflected with glee, the chance slip between “her cup and my lip” that did Deasy in. It was also why the rapacious reptile had quietly informed her close friend and ally Charity, a snapping turtle much beloved by Deasy, that she intended to have an old friend over for dinner “soon.”

You see, Mercy was no fool. She knew her legal onions as well as any other Indonesian shyster which was why the local legal fraternity extended her a professional courtesy becoming of any self-respecting reptile. 

She had seen the look in her owner’s eyes the day she went past 14 feet in length. It was a look of greed, the look that screamed “there but for the grace of Deasy goes a Birkin handbag worth US$250,000.” 

It was, thought the reptile with a shudder, the RM look.

Mercy had therefore begun carefully preparing her case. She put it out that she was a nice crocodile; a gentle giant and the sensitive sort of liberal who frowned on something as heartless as capital punishment. 

Such were the heart-warming anecdotes about the lovable croc that it divided the Indonesian people. Case in point: onions, for example, made Mercy cry which was a little known fact unbeknownst to many Indonesians. They sympathised because it made them cry too. 

Despite her claim of self-defence, the courts generally took a dim view of owner-gobbling pets. Charity stood turtle-fully by her and corroborated the onion angle but it was all in vain. 

Mercy was tried and sentenced to become shoes. Charity sobbed while  Faith and Hope were nowhere in evidence.

Mercy duly became shoes and was exported to the United States. And a rich American finally got his crocodile shoes.

But he’s suing because they don’t fit his croc.

Return To Thrower or Rutman’s Revenge

Only in the United States!

A man from Kentucky got up one morning feeling lucky. And what does he do about it?

He proceeds to go outside and throw a boomerang that flies back and hits him on the head. He then hires a lawyer and – get this – sues himself for US$300,000 (RM1.3 million). 

And he wins!

Astonishingly, it will not cost him a cent because all the money he won comes from his insurance company.

Larry Rutman, of Owensboro, Kentucky was awarded the windfall after a court determined he ’caused body damage through negligence and carelessness’.

“I paid all that insurance for a long time just in case something unforeseen like this ever happened,” a delighted Mr Rutman, his head swathed in bandages, said cheerfully. 

It was a case that left the whole of Kentucky – nay, the whole country – agog.

The insurance company’s lawyers trotted out the old “No Pain, no Gain” trick which went roughly like this: that the scheming Larry “Hit Me with Your Best Shot” Rutman had been clever enough to dream up the dastardly plan, stupid enough to try it and lucky enough to survive it.

But Larry “Look Ma, No Hands” Rutman had, indeed, been clever enough to hire the best lawyer money could buy. Her name was Maggie “Jaws” Mason and the only difference between her and a pit bull was a terse, two syllable word. 

The word was lipstick.

Her legal acumen was so legendary that when she went swimming in the ocean, even the sharks kept a respectful distance. Her fellow lawyers understood and approved because in the trade, it was called professional courtesy. 

Maggie “I am not Perry” Mason examined Larry skilfully. She started by telling the court that Rutman was scared of boomerangs. He had thrown one a few years ago and now lived in mortal fear. 

To eradicate the fear, his therapist had advised him to throw more so that he would not be scared anymore. 

In any case, he had always been a delicate fellow afraid of injury. The jury was particularly impressed by the revelation that a few toothpicks dropped on his foot was enough to cause a stress fracture. 

You might also say that the ham-handedness of the insurance firm’s lawyers damaged its cause somewhat.  

Let’s put it this way. They did not ask particularly incisive questions. 

You judge for yourself.

Attorney, holding up a photo : Who is this, in this picture? 

Rutman: That’s me before the accident 

Attorney: Were you present at the time said picture was taken? 

Judge: The jury will disregard the question. 

Attorney: Mr Rutman, would you say you are an emotionally stable person?

Rutman: Yes, I think so.  

Attorney: How many times have you committed suicide?

Judge: The jury will disregard the question. 

Attorney, showing a picture of Rutman after the accident: Was that your broken nose? 

Rutman: Yes

Attorney: But was this the same nose that was broken when you were three? 

Rutman: No, that one now lives in California and practises law. 

The jury overwhelmingly found for Rutman. 

After the accident – which Mr Rutman claims affected his memory and made him oversexed – he was planning to sue the boomerang manufacturer until his lawyer advised him against it.

She said it might return to haunt him. 

Back To The Future

I first started Speakeasy as a column in 1991 when I was news editor for a business magazine in the New Straits Times Group. 

But I wanted it to be mostly non-serious and I proposed it for the Sunday Times, then the country’s largest selling newspaper.

How things change. 

Speakeasy has since evolved, in fits and starts, through two other newspapers until its final incarnation in the business section of the Saturday Star until recently. 

In truth, it should have never been in the business section but its business editor M Shanmugam is a good friend and he suggested its inclusion. It was the late Soo Ewe Jin, a Star senior editor and another friend, who suggested to Shan that I write a column for the paper. I am indebted to him.   

I know about serious  journalism because I should. I worked in the foreign media for twenty years and, in the 90s, I worked as the Malaysian bureau chief of a weekly newsmagazine that Dr Mahathir, the premier then, was decidedly not fond of. 

Indeed, I remember once – in 1996 or thereabouts – covering an event that Dr M was to launch in Johor. 

Unfortunately, he spotted me as he was being escorted in and his speech morphed into an attack on me and the magazine over an article I’d written. And the worst part was that after he’d finished in English, he translated it into Bahasa lest there be some Johoreans unfamiliar with English.

It came out in the papers the next day which can’t have been easy for my wife, then a senior officer with the government. 

This has nothing to do with the price of fish and I am actually delighted that the Old Man is back as Premier now given that the alternative was someone called MO1. I thought the guy after Larry and Curly had retired. 

The only reason for that bit of reminiscence was to show that I am familiar with the business, and criticisms, that critical reporting entails. 

Which is why writing a column such as this is such a joy. Humour and self- deprecation, when properly directed, can make as much of a point as serious reporting but without the sting. 

My daughter Raisa, 26, has agreed to administer the blog and she suggests that I write one every week just as I did for the Star. What do you think?

I will endeavor not to exceed 650 words because anything beyond that generally cause heaviness of the eyelids and general boredom. 

I shall try to avoid both.